RECOGNITION OF PRIOR LEARNING (RPL): IN SEARCH OF A VALID AND SUSTAINABLE MECHANISM FOR SOUTH AFRICA. Dissertation

Save this PDF as:
 WORD  PNG  TXT  JPG

Size: px
Start display at page:

Download "RECOGNITION OF PRIOR LEARNING (RPL): IN SEARCH OF A VALID AND SUSTAINABLE MECHANISM FOR SOUTH AFRICA. Dissertation"

Transcription

1 RECOGNITION OF PRIOR LEARNING (RPL): IN SEARCH OF A VALID AND SUSTAINABLE MECHANISM FOR SOUTH AFRICA Dissertation Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Masters in Education Faculty of Education Department of Curriculum Studies University of Pretoria 30 April 2004 by Johanna Petronella Heyns (Ronel) Supervisor Prof. SJ Howie

2 TABLE OF CONTENTS PREFACE 1 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 2 SUMMARY 3 KEY WORDS 3 LIST OF TERMS, ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS 4 CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION Problem in its Context Purposes and Significance of the Study Research Questions Characteristics of the Study Structure of the Dissertation 15 CHAPTER 2: ACTS, REGULATIONS AND POLICIES IN SOUTH AFRICA The SAQA Act, Regulations, Policies and Guidelines The Skills Development Act, Regulations, Policies and Guidelines Higher Education Acts and Policies Matriculation with Endorsement as Entry Requirement to Higher Education The 50% Residency Clause Further Education Acts and Policies Conclusion 26 CHAPTER 3: LITERATURE REVIEW Overview: RPL and its Purposes A Credit-exchange Approach A Developmental Approach i

3 3.1.3 Radical RPL Trojan-horse RPL Purposes of RPL A Common Understanding of RPL United States of America England Scotland Ireland Canada Australia New Zealand The Netherlands France South Africa The Emergence of the Characteristics of a Valid and Sustainable System for the Recognition of Prior Learning Preliminary Analysis Conclusion 66 CHAPTER 4: RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Conceptual Framework Step 1: The Identification of what a Person Knows and Can Do Step 2: The Matching of a Person s Skills, Knowledge and Experience to specific Standards and Qualifications Step 3: Assessing the Skills, Knowledge and Experience against Standards and Qualifications Step 4: Crediting the Person for Skills, Knowledge and Experience built up through Formal, Informal and Nonformal Learning that occurred in the past 75 ii

4 4.2 Research Questions Question 1: What are the Characteristics of a Valid, Practical and Effective RPL System? Question 2: What Elements are required to Implement a Valid and Sustainable RPL System? Research Design Research Methods Operational Question 1: What are the Characteristics of a Valid, Practical and Effective RPL System? Operational Question 2: What Elements are Required for Implementing a Sustainable RPL System? Data Collection Plan Data Collection Procedures Validity and Reliability Triangulation Member Checks Peer Review Cross-case Analysis Audit Trail The Investigator s Position Data Analysis Plan Operational Question 1: What are the Characteristics of a Valid, Practical and Effective RPL System? Operational Question 2: What Elements are Required for Implementing a Sustainable RPL System? 114 CHAPTER 5: THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A VALID, PRACTICAL AND EFFECTIVE RPL SYSTEM Quality Assurance Framework An Enabling Environment 133 iii

5 5.2.1 Political and Institutional Will Principles and Purpose Target Market Articulation Policies and Procedures Funding of RPL Costing and Fees Policies and Regulations that Govern Access Conclusion Conclusions about a Quality Assurance Framework Conclusions about an Enabling Environment Concluding Remarks 184 CHAPTER 6: THE ELEMENTS REQUIRED FOR IMPLEMENTING A SUSTAINABLE SYSTEM A Common Understanding Instruments and Evidence Fit-for-purpose Assessment Instruments The Form, Quality and Sources of Evidence RPL A National Strategy A National Strategy and Commitment Orientation to Adult Learners New Ways of Knowing Conclusion Conclusions about an Assessment Methodology Conclusions about Appropriate Assessment Approaches and Instruments Concluding Remarks 227 iv

6 CHAPTER 7: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Summary of Research Questions and Results Research Question 1: What are the Characteristics of a Valid, Practical and Effective RPL system? Concluding Comments: Question Research Question 2: What Elements are Required for Implementing a Sustainable RPL System? Concluding Comments: Question Methodological Reflections The Research Instruments Limitations Recommendations and Conclusions Macro Policy Environment Administrative Procedures A Developmental Approach Further Research Assessment of Prior Learning An Integrated, Holistic Approach to the Assessment of Prior Learning Reflections 252 REFERENCES 254 APPENDICES 263 A: Exploratory Interview Schedule B: Exploratory Interview Schedule C: Questionnaire 275 D: Semi-structured Interview Schedule 291 v

7 E: Matrices: Common Themes and Differences Emerging from the Semi-structured Interviews 296 Table E1: Matrix of Common Themes Emerging from the Semi-structured Interviews 297 Table E2: Matrix Of Differences and Surprises Emerging from the Semi-structured Interviews 301 F: Extracts from the Responses to the Questionnaire Questions 305 Questions and Question Question Question Question Question Question Questions 5.1, Question Question Questions 3.1 and Question Question Question 3.13 and Questions 3.7 and Question G: The Certificate: Tourism Management, NQF Level TABLES 3.1 International Descriptions, Abbreviations and Acronyms for RPL The State of RPL Implementation in the Technikon Sector International Commonalities Comparison of International and National Approaches 65 vi

8 4.1 Sample for Exploratory Interviews Sample for Questionnaires Criteria for the Selection of the Population Sample for Semi-structured Interviews Data Collection Plan Pattern Coding, Themes and Relationships: Literature Review Links between Leitmotifs and Questionnaire Questions Matrix of Common Themes Emerging from the Semi-structured Interviews Matrix of Differences and Surprises Emerging from the Semistructured Interviews Quality Assurance (Moderation) Procedures (n=16) Input, Output and Assessment-based Moderation Purposes of RPL Purposes of RPL as indicated by Respondents across Institutions Target Groups for RPL Target Qualifications for RPL Services The Basis for Credits Awarded (n=11) Unit- standard based and non-unit-standard-based Qualifications Types of Qualifications against which RPL can be undertaken SAQA Self-audit Tool Institutional Policy and Environment Assessment Procedures and Formal Documentation (n=11) Distribution of Alternative Access Routes across Institutions Input versus Output as the Basis for Assessment of Prior Learning The Basis for Assessment (n=16) On the basis of the Assessment, what is it that is given Credit? (n=16) Awarding Formal Credits for Prior Learning in relation to Qualifications (n=11) 199 vii

9 6.5 Level Descriptors and Purpose and Exit-level Outcomes of a Qualification Mainstream Assessment Instruments (n=16) Assessment Instruments for RPL Purposes (n=16) Sources of Evidence for the RPL (n=16) Matrix of Areas covered in the Assessment and Exit-level Outcomes for the Qualification 218 FIGURES 3.1 Kolb s experiential learning cycle Emerging characteristics of a RPL system The characteristics of a valid, sustainable system Linking qualitative and quantitative data Project plan Desirability of RPL Elements of a RPL system Emerging characteristics of a RPL system Quality assurance interventions The basis for moderation (n=12) Purpose of RPL (n=16) Target market (n=16) The award of credits in terms of administrative systems (n=11) A generic RPL process Alternative access to institutions (n=15) Emerging characteristics of a RPL system The basis for assessment (n=16) Assessing and crediting results of learning in relation to the learning programme Assessment, and awarding credits 200 viii

10 6.5 Assessment of prior learning assesses the results of learning Assessment instruments for mainstream and RPL assessment (n=16) Linking qualitative and quantitative data 245 ix

11 PREFACE I became interested in Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) in November 2000 when I joined the South African Qualifications Authority, a statutory body established to oversee the development and implementation of the National Qualifications Framework. This body, at that stage, commissioned a study that ultimately led to the development and approval of a national RPL policy. I was fortunate to have been part of the intense process of consultation and consolidation that led to the adoption of the national RPL policy in June RPL appealed to me for a number of reasons: the tremendous promise held by a process whereby all learning, regardless of how and where it was attained, captured my imagination. Here seemed to be a mechanism whereby the contributions of ordinary South Africans to communities, workplaces and society at large can be validated and affirmed. It is a process that can be incredibly empowering to the individual. From the outset it was evident that RPL was seen as one of the key deliverables of the National Qualifications Framework, but that it was no further forward than the level of conceptualisation and debate. I felt the need to investigate how policy could become practice. RPL in South Africa is in its infancy. Yet, good practice is already emerging and I believe the trickle will shortly become a flood as RPL is implemented in a more systemic manner. For me it is exciting to contribute to the body of knowledge that is emerging around RPL and to be part of a process that may touch the lives of thousands of ordinary people who have never stopped learning and now, increasingly, have the opportunity to be recognised for their contributions. I hope that this study will generate increased interest and take-up of a very worthwhile cause. Ronel Heyns April

12 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Thank you to my husband Louis and my children Juan, Louise and Petro for giving me the space and encouragement to learn and to grow. Thank you to Prof Sarah Howie and Prof Tjeerd Plomp for your expert guidance, support and patience. 2

13 SUMMARY RECOGNITION OF PRIOR LEARNING: IN SEARCH OF A VALID AND SUSTAINABLE MECHANISM FOR SOUTH AFRICA On its own, the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is not a solution to either inequalities or unemployment, but it is an important strategy to address access to education and training for those previously excluded (SAQA, 2003a, p. 31) This study deals with the search for valid and sustainable mechanisms for the implementation of the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) in South Africa. Some of the elements that facilitate implementation include stringent quality criteria and common benchmarks that build trust in the process and ensures the protection of the integrity of the system. In an education and training system, which is subject to intense change, RPL has an important contribution to make to the opening up of access to education and training for individuals previously denied the privilege. Recognition of prior learning Experiential learning Legislative and regulatory framework Access Redress Accountable practices Quality criteria Enabling environment Fit-for-purpose assessment instrument Practicability and sustainability KEY WORDS 3

14 LIST OF TERMS, ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS A Advanced standing Status granted to a learner to access a level of learning at a level higher than the logical next level of education and training Advisor A practitioner who is responsible for assisting a learner with the identification and matching of learning against particular unit standards, learning outcomes and qualifications APA Accreditation of Prior Achievement (UK) APCL Assessment of Prior Certificated Learning (UK) APEL Assessment of Prior Experiential Learning (UK) APL Accreditation of Prior Learning (UK) Applied competence Competence that reflects foundational, practical and reflexive knowledge Assessor A practitioner who is responsible for the assessment of the achievement of learning outcomes AVCC Australian Vice-Chancellor s Committee Awarding body The body awarding the qualification C CAEL CAPLA CBT CEDEFOP CETA Challenge exam CHE Competency Competency-based Training (CBT) COSATU Council for Adult and Experiential Learning Canadian Association for Prior Learning Assessment Competency-based Training European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training Construction Education and Training Authority SETA A formal examination. Usually used in the context of RPL to determine the underpinning theoretical knowledge and understanding of a candidate claiming credits towards unit standards and qualifications Council on Higher Education The skills and knowledge needed to perform a particular role Training based on the desired competencies required for a particular task/role Congress of South African Trade Unions 4

15 Credentialed Learning achieved through formal education or training (Australia) Criterion-referenced Training Training based on pre-determined criteria for units of learning Credit The value assigned to a unit of learning one credit is the minimum, representing at least 10 notional hours of learning Credit transfer Transfer of credits towards unit standards and qualifications, usually between two (or more) institutions CTP Committee of Technikon Principals CUP Committee for University Principals (also known as SAUVCA) D DoE DoL E ETQA EVC ETDP Experiential Learning External moderator (External verifier) F FAS FET FOTIM FSHFETT Department of Education Department of Labour Education and Training Quality Assurance body Erkennen van Verworwen Competenties (Netherlands) Education and Training Development Practices SETA The knowledge and skills people have acquired through life and work experience and study, which have not been formally assessed through any educational or professional certification A practitioner responsible for the process which ensures that assessments of the outcomes described in unit standards and qualifications are fair, valid and reliable, usually associated with an ETQA Irish Training and Employment Authority Further Education and Training (also FE) Foundation of Tertiary Institutions of the Northern Metropolis Free State Higher and Further Education and Training Trust 5

16 G GET GETC H HEQC HET HRDS I University of Pretoria etd Heyns, J P (2004) General Education and Training (also GE) General Education and Training Certificate. The first formal exit point on the NQF (NQF level 1) Higher Education Quality Committee of the Council on Higher Education Higher Education and Training (also HE) Human Resource Development Strategy Internal moderator (Internal verifier) J JET JMB L Lifelong learning M MERSETA Multi-purpose N NCEA NFROT A practitioner responsible for the process which ensures that assessments of the outcomes described in unit standards and qualifications are fair, valid and reliable, usually associated with a provider of education and training Joint Education Trust/Joint Education Services Joint Matriculation Board A framework that asserts that people learn, both formally and informally, throughout their lives and that this kind of learning could be credit-bearing in terms of registered unit standards and qualifications The Mechanical and Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority A provider/institution who is offering qualifications covering a range of learning fields National Council for Educational Awards National Framework for the Recognition of Training 6

17 NPDE NPHE NQF NSB NSDS P PHEI PLA PLAR R RPL S SAFCERT SAQA SAUVCA SETA Single-purpose T TAFE U Umalusi Un-credentialed UNISA V VAP University of Pretoria etd Heyns, J P (2004) National Professional Diploma in Education National Plan for Higher Education National Qualifications Framework National Standards Body National Skills Development Strategy Previously disadvantaged higher education institution Prior Learning Assessment (USA) Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (Canada) Recognition of Prior Learning (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa) South African Certification Council South African Qualifications Authority South African Universities Vice-Chancellors Association Sector Education and Training Authority A provider/institution who is offering learning programmes in primarily one field of learning. Associated with a particular Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) Training and Further Education (Australia) General and Further Education Quality Assurance Council Learning from work experience and/or life experience Learning (Australia) University of South Africa Validation des Acquis Professionels (France) 7

18 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION This study aims to describe current international and national practices in the implementation of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and to identify mechanisms that will ensure that RPL is a credible and valid process for the awarding of credits in terms of formal unit standards and qualifications registered on the South African National Qualifications Framework (NQF). This is done against the background of a call for the widening of access to education and training for adults internationally, but particularly in South Africa. In South Africa, many of these adults were prevented from accessing education and training as a result of unjust educational policies of the Apartheid regime and therefore, RPL in this country has, in addition to its purpose of providing improved access to education, a socio-political redress purpose. In this chapter, an introduction to the research will be given and the central research problem will be described within its context (1.1). This will be followed by a discussion of the purposes and significance of the study for the implementation of a system of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) in South Africa (1.2). The research questions are briefly introduced in 1.3. In 1.4, the characteristics and some limitations to the study are described. Finally, the structure for this dissertation will be outlined at the conclusion of this chapter (1.5). 1.1 Problem in its Context In 2002, a ministerial study team tasked with the review of the implementation of the South African National Qualifications Framework (NQF), made the point that (Department of Education [DoE] & Department of Labour [DoL], 2002): Of all the expectations placed on the NQF, the aspiration for a system of recognition of prior learning (RPL) was perhaps the most significant; hence the failure to establish any large-scale provision for RPL has been one of the greatest causes of current disappointment with NQF implementation (p.86). 8

19 This disappointment stemmed from the expectation of stakeholders in education and training that a system whereby people s prior learning can be formally recognised against registered South African qualifications could facilitate Human Resource Development (HRDS) imperatives and play a significant role in the transformation of education and training in this country. In addition, recognition of prior learning in South Africa is seen to be a key strategy to address the following issues: o Redress of past unfair discrimination in education, training and employment opportunities; o Equitable access to education and training; and o Lifelong learning as a principle for enhancing the participation of adults in education and training. Yet, RPL in South Africa has not been implemented widely. Some of the reasons may be that RPL is being introduced in a time of intense change: education and training are being restructured in fundamental ways, both in terms of a more equitable distribution of infra-structural resources and in terms of the very structure and purpose of qualifications, the curricula, learning programmes and approaches to assessment. All of this is taking place within a vacuum of guidelines as to how to implement RPL. This has resulted in the view that RPL is a threat to the integrity of education and training, as standards will have to be lowered to accommodate learners who were not eligible for admission to formal learning programmes in the past. For RPL to succeed, implementation strategies need to be developed that will withstand intellectual scrutiny and enable non-informal and informal learning to be recognised in relation to formal qualifications in a valid and credible manner. Such strategies must generate the commitment and support of education and training practitioners and institutions and must ensure that the integrity and quality of education and training are protected and enhanced (SAQA, 2002a). 9

20 1.2 Purposes and Significance of the Study It is within this context that this study aims to describe current international and national practices in the implementation of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and to identify mechanisms that will ensure that RPL is a credible and valid process for the awarding of credits in terms of formal unit standards and qualifications registered on the South African National Qualifications Framework (NQF). This implies that the study will comprise an exploratory descriptive component and a component where mechanisms for the successful implementation of RPL are proposed. Internationally and in South Africa, Recognition of Prior Learning is part of the larger debate around ease of access to education and training as a mechanism for up-skilling and multi-skilling a workforce. Therefore, in most of the countries where RPL has been implemented, improved access to further learning is linked with the economic development needs of the country. As in South Africa, internationally education and training is costly and the implementation of RPL is considered to be a cost-effective process whereby people s learning may be recognised and credited. People who have achieved learning through experience may be given access to education not on the basis of preceding qualifications, but on the basis of what they can demonstrate in terms of their learning. This removes the need for people to attend full-time programmes and is, therefore, a saving in terms of time and cost. Also, in addition to the commercialisation of learning (in terms of a call for more responsive and relevant learning programmes in relation to the workplace), there seems to be the recognition that the way in which learning is viewed is changing: increasingly, institutions are acknowledging that they are not the sole repositories and distributors of knowledge and that informal/non-formal experiential learning are as valuable and credit-worthy in terms of formal qualifications as learning achieved through sitting in a classroom. In these countries, RPL is therefore integral to the understanding of experiential learning. It should be noted, though, that the notion that people learn by doing is a principle that has been around for centuries the so-called experiential learning methodology. 10

21 In many disciplines this is an integral part of training. In medicine, teaching and other action-learning environments, internships are a pre-requisite for professional registration and the right to practice. Whereas in these examples, learning by experience is an acceptable (and required) form of learning, RPL requires that we acknowledge that learning can be achieved from the opposite end of education and training; i.e. by learning by doing first, and then formalising skills and knowledge into a qualification, much like the apprentice who is progressively exposed to more complex tasks and with experience and learning, becomes a master artisan (Simosko & Cook, 1996). This study therefore also intends to look at systems whereby experiential learning, as the type of learning at the opposite end of the education and training spectrum, can be viewed as academic currency for the purpose of awarding credits. From the literature review it is evident that debates about RPL are ongoing, particularly around the credibility of RPL processes. For this reason, implementers of RPL internationally have developed stringent quality assurance guidelines as a way in which to assure the relevant authorities that RPL is not a sale of qualifications or an easy way of achieving credits towards registered qualifications. For this reason, this study will therefore investigate in particular the quality assurance mechanisms used internationally, with a view to contextualise a quality assurance framework for RPL within the South African education and training environment. It should be noted that a single, co-ordinated quality assurance process of education and training is a relatively new concept in South Africa. Only recently were bodies established, which are responsible for the quality assurance of education and training provisioning. The Education and Training Quality Assurance bodies (ETQAs) cover all the economic sectors, as well as the Higher Education (HE), Further Education (FET) and General Education and Training (GET) bands. A key criterion for the accreditation of their constituent providers is a comprehensive quality management system. Such a quality management system should encapsulate all the activities relating to teaching and learning, including policies and review mechanisms to gauge the extent of the successful implementation of these. From the literature it seems that 11

22 where RPL has been implemented in other countries, the establishment of quality assurance criteria as a mechanism to ensure the credible and valid implementation of RPL is seen to be key. The literature review therefore highlights these quality assurance criteria. This study is significant for South Africa for the following reasons: o It aims to identify and describe national, contextualised practices for the implementation of RPL in South Africa. o It wishes to contribute to the national and international debates regarding the recognition of experiential learning, access and redress. o It intends to identify accountable practices that will ensure the credibility of RPL processes and may also have an impact on the quality assurance processes and mechanisms of providers generally. Moreover, this study will also contribute to education research in South Africa in general, particularly in the implementation of educational policies that have as their purpose the transforming of education and training from an Apartheid system to a system responsive to the needs of the learners, the economy and the Human Resource Development Strategy (HRDS). Finally, this study has a contribution to make to other developing countries trying to break free from colonialist education and training, as well as developed countries that because of changes in their workforce demographics, are implementing processes according to which people s learning can be recognised and workers can become more mobile. 1.3 Research Questions This report therefore intends to answer the following critical question: Which mechanisms are needed to ensure that recognition of prior learning (RPL) is a valid and sustainable process for the awarding of credits in terms of formal unit standards and qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF)? 12

23 In keeping with the aim of this study, namely to describe current international and national practices in the implementation of RPL and to identify mechanisms that will ensure that RPL is a credible and valid process, the following supporting questions were used: o What are the characteristics of a valid, practical and effective RPL system? o What elements are required for implementing a valid and sustainable RPL system? The first supporting question therefore explored international and national characteristics of RPL systems: What are the characteristics of a valid, practical and effective RPL system? A key element of, particularly, valid systems seem to be a high level of accountability. In the literature, this accountability is expressed as pre-defined quality criteria, which underpin every activity related to RPL. Such quality criteria cover the following activities: the establishment of policies and procedures, assessment, staff training, and resources and fees charged for RPL services. In addition, issues of practicability and effectiveness, in the light of the criticism that RPL is resource intensive and too sophisticated to implement, are discussed. The second supporting question addressed the elements needed for a sustainable system: What elements are required for implementing a valid and sustainable RPL system? This question deals in particular with fit-for-purpose assessment approaches and instruments and the sustainability of RPL over time. The main focus of this study is to identify mechanisms for the successful implementation of RPL. A preliminary analysis from the literature indicated that South Africa already has the tools and structures needed for the implementation of RPL, but that these would have to be consolidated into workable, cost-effective models and approaches. This question addressed these issues in particular. 13

24 1.4 Characteristics of the Study This research report is built upon a common international understanding of the need for increased participation of adults in education and training. The recognition of prior learning is seen to be one of the mechanisms for achieving this. However, whereas international RPL initiatives have similar purposes for implementation, i.e. a widening of access to education and training for adults, RPL in South Africa is also linked to a redress imperative in terms of which people who have been prevented from entering education and training in the past can now access education through RPL. This socio-political directive complicates the implementation of RPL in South Africa: implementation is therefore not only about finding appropriate mechanisms for recognising and crediting prior learning, but also about suspending our doubt about the preparedness and abilities of candidates, particularly in the light of the inferior education, the only education available to an overwhelming section of the population in the past. The doubt about preparedness of candidates seems to be exacerbated by the tension that exists between education and training, where training is considered to be skills focused and, therefore, lack the underpinning theoretical knowledge required for the successful completion of a qualification. Because thousands of applicants for RPL will come from skills focused environments, it is critical that a balance is struck between the notion of access as entry to further education, redress as acknowledgement and valuing of prior learning, and the protection of the integrity of the system. In a survey undertaken by the Joint Education Services (JET) in 2000, it was found that a very small number of providers have taken on the challenge of conceptualising and operationalising RPL (Du Pre & Pretorius, 2001). The picture has not changed significantly since the time of that survey. Providers of education and training who have implemented RPL in South Africa are therefore being scrutinised and have a vested interest in reporting positively in terms of their RPL initiatives. 14

25 Finally, RPL in South Africa is an innovative, but largely untried, concept in education and training. This makes it difficult to determine trends and to gauge success rates, simply because it has not produced enough data for longitudinal and comparative studies. 1.5 Structure of the Dissertation Chapter 2 describes the legislative and regulatory framework within which RPL in South Africa was conceptualised and expressed. Many Acts and regulations came into being after the 1994 democratic election with the distinct purpose of enabling the transformation of education and training in this country. The extent to which such Acts, regulations and policies agree on the purposes and uses of RPL, will be explored in Chapter 2. Chapter 3 provides a review of the literature. Most studies explored emanate from initiatives implemented in developed countries such as the USA, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and France. However, a number of RPL initiatives have also been undertaken in South Africa. These studies will also be described. Chapter 4 discusses the research questions, the conceptual framework resulting in operational research questions, followed by the research design, including the sample, research instruments, data collection and data processing procedures utilised for this study. In addition, the research methodology and research procedures for this study are presented. The results of the first operational question are addressed in Chapter 5. This chapter deals with the characteristics of a valid, practical and effective RPL system. The results are based on the elements for such a system, emerging from international and national case studies and from the focused questionnaires and the semi-structured interviews. Chapter 6 addresses the second operational question; i.e. the elements that are required for implementing a sustainable RPL system. It addresses in particular the 15

26 key areas of practice upon which there seems to be international agreement for the successful implementation of RPL. This chapter focuses on an outcomes-based approach as a basis for RPL and fit-for-purpose assessment approaches to be utilised within the context of the South African education and training system. Chapter 7 provides a summary of the main findings. In addition, conclusions are drawn and recommendations made for further research, particularly in relation to the implementation of RPL in a systemic manner. 16

27 CHAPTER 2 ACTS, REGULATIONS AND POLICIES IN SOUTH AFRICA Since 1994, with the establishment of a new democratically elected government, the South African education and training system has been under intense scrutiny. It is particularly in education and training that the Apartheid regime found some of its strongest expression. For this reason, South Africa s new democracy has seen the promulgation of a number of new Acts with the purpose of transforming education and training to be more inclusive of all the learners, including adult learners, of the country. The transformation of education and training has a number of objectives, which include the development of a system more responsive to the needs of the economy, individuals, and society at large. In addition, transformation processes also intend to eradicate past unjust educational policies, particularly policies that prevented people from accessing education and training. Recognition of prior learning is considered to be an important mechanism for opening up access to those previously denied the privilege of quality education. For this reason, in all the new education Acts, explicit and implicit reference is made to the widening of access to non-traditional learners. In this chapter, the education Acts, national policies and regulations are analysed to highlight the extent to which there is legislative and regulatory coherence and agreement on RPL and on all the aspects of its implementation. As seen from the Acts and regulations and other formal publications, RPL seems to have become an integral part of the psyche of South African education and training. In the ministerial review (known as the Study Team review) of the implementation of the National Qualifications Framework (DoE & DoL, 2002), the slow progress towards the systemic implementation of RPL is mentioned as one of the current disappointments in the NQF. However, many of the Acts and regulations were formulated and promulgated long before the Study Team review of 2001/2002. The legislative and regulatory framework for the implementation of RPL, therefore, already exists. 17

28 In 2.1 the first education Act promulgated after the 1994 elections, the South African Qualifications Authority Act, no. 58 of 1995, in particular its supporting regulations, policies and guidelines, is discussed. In 2.2, the Skills Development Act, no. 97 of 1997 and its regulations will be discussed. 2.3 will deal with the Higher Education Act, no 101 of 1997, the Education White Paper (1997, DoE, No 3), as well as the draft New Academic Policy for Programmes and Qualifications in Higher Education, (also known as the NAP) (Council on Higher Education [CHE], 2001). In 2.4, the Further Education and Training Act (No 98 of 1998) and policies are briefly explored. 2.1 The SAQA Act, Regulations, Policies and Guidelines The South African Qualifications Authority s National Standards Bodies Regulations (Number 482 of March 1998), in particular, are specific regarding Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). These regulations provide an overarching definition of RPL and are explicit about the inclusion of RPL in the development, design and construction of qualifications. For example, the requirements for the registration of qualifications on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) make clear that a qualification shall: indicate in the rules governing the award of the qualification that the qualification may be achieved in whole or in part through the recognition of prior learning, which concept includes but is not limited to learning outcomes achieved through formal, informal and non-formal learning and work experience (p.6). This means that every registered qualification, in principle at the very least, can be achieved through recognition of prior learning. The Education and Training Quality Assurance Bodies Regulations (1998) relating to the SAQA Act are equally explicit about RPL, but from a quality assurance point of view: in the criteria for accreditation of providers, a provider may be accredited if it has the necessary policies and practices for the management of assessment (including RPL) (p.7). 18

29 In addition, SAQA as the body responsible for the development and implementation of the NQF has developed a national RPL policy, namely: The Recognition of Prior Learning in the context of the South African National Qualifications Framework, (SAQA, 2002a). In this policy, RPL in the South African context refers specifically to the facilitation of access to, and mobility and progression within education, training and career paths; and redress of past unfair discrimination in education, training and employment opportunities (p.9). The policy puts forward a set of quality criteria as minimum expectations for the development and implementation of RPL. (The criteria are discussed in Chapter 3 refer to Table 3.4) Further, a guidelines document, The Criteria and Guidelines for the Implementation of Recognition of Prior Learning (2003a) was developed with the purpose of aiding implementation at the level of the education and training provider. 2.2 The Skills Development Act, Regulations, Policies and Guidelines The Skills Development Act (No 97 of 1998) provides for an institutional framework for the implementation of national, sector and workplace strategies with the purpose of improving the skills of the South African workforce. The drive behind the development of processes for the Recognition of Prior Learning emanated mainly from the needs of the labour force to achieve recognition for learning and skills attained through work and life experiences, particularly as these people were prevented from accessing education and training by unjust educational policies of the past. This Act is explicit about the need for redress. One of the purposes of this Act is to improve the employment prospects of persons previously disadvantaged by unfair discrimination and to redress those disadvantages through training and education (p.4). Under the Skills Development Act, statutory bodies with the responsibility of assuring quality education and training in designated sectors were instituted. These bodies are known as Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs). The SETAs have to facilitate development and implementation of RPL processes for the workforce in their sectors and quality assure the processes. Together with the Act, the SETAs are powerful drivers for the implementation of RPL. (Some SETA initiatives are discussed in Chapter 3.) 19

30 2.3 Higher Education Acts and Policies The Higher Education Act (No 101 of 1997) states its position on access and redress in the preamble to the Act, namely that it is desirable to REDRESS past discrimination and ensure representivity and equal access (p.2). However, it is in the Education White Paper (A programme for the transformation of Higher Education, No 3 of 1997), that these principles are expressed explicitly, namely that the higher education system must be transformed to redress past inequalities, to serve a new social order, to meet pressing national needs and to respond to new realities and opportunities (p.2). The White Paper (No 3 of 1997) goes further to say that the Ministry [of Education s] vision is that of a transformed, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist system of higher education that will promote equity of access and a fair chance of success to all who are seeking to realise their potential through higher education, while eradicating all forms of unfair discrimination and advancing redress for past inequalities. In addition, the White Paper (No 3 of 1997) proposes that a single, nationally coordinated system will enhance the broadening of the social base of the higher education system in terms of race, class, gender and age. It is intended that a new system will cater for a considerably more diverse body of learners than in the past. The White Paper states that higher education will open its doors, in the spirit of lifelong learning, to workers, professionals and adult learners in pursuit of multiskilling and re-skilling, whose access to higher education was thwarted in the past. The White Paper (No 3 of 1997) also suggests that such a system will enable the removal of obstacles, which unnecessarily limit learners access to programmes, and enable proper academic recognition to be given for prior learning achieved, thus permitting greater horizontal and vertical mobility by learners in the higher education system (p.8). Further, in the White Paper s (No 3 of 1997) discussion of admission and selection procedures, the issue of RPL is highlighted, in the statement that the Ministry of 20

31 Education strongly supports developmental work and pilot projects which will help institutions to develop criteria to assess applicants prior learning and experience, so that those with clear potential to succeed in higher education can be admitted (p.15). The Council for Higher Education (CHE) is the statutory body established to provide a single nationally coordinated system of higher education. It also has the task of managing quality assurance and quality promotion in higher education and, as such, is similar in function to the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs). For this purpose, the draft New Academic Policy for Programmes and Qualifications in Higher Education (CHE, 2001) was published in December of This document is still in draft form, awaiting the outcome of the Study Team review of the implementation of the NQF. Nevertheless, the position of the CHE in terms of RPL is clear. It uses a comprehensive description of RPL, namely: RPL is a way of recognising what individuals already know and can do. RPL is based on the premise that people learn both inside and outside formal learning structures (including learning from work and life experience) and this learning can be worthy of recognition and credit RPL is used extensively by those seeking: admission to a course, advanced standing for a course; or credits towards a qualification. It can also be used by those seeking entry to a particular field of employment; promotion or self-development. The draft New Academic Policy (NAP) distinguishes between two types of RPL: the recognition of accredited learning and the recognition of prior experiential learning. The second type of RPL, in particular, is seen to be facilitated by the development of a common standardised currency in terms of the level of qualifications and the credits awarded to such qualifications. In the words of the policy, higher education institutions will need to develop appropriate, consistent and quality assured RPL policies, practices and assessment instruments based on the specification of entry requirements and learning outcomes (p. 104). This position echoes the critical aspects identified in the literature; i.e. a quality assured process, and common criteria for the evaluation and assessment of prior learning. 21

32 However, despite the Higher Education Act and the draft New Academic Policy s clear principled expression supporting the recognition of prior learning, at least two current statutory regulations are inhibiting the development and implementation of RPL within the public and private higher education institutions Matriculation with Endorsement as Entry Requirement to Higher Education In 1918, the Joint Matriculation Board (JMB) came into being as a result of a Royal Charter establishing the first South African university in 1873, with the purpose of governing the entry of candidates for first degree studies at the university. Its statutory obligations were to: o Determine the minimum statutory requirements for first degree studies at South African universities; o conduct the matriculation examination as the norm examination for university admission; and to o maintain equivalent standards at various senior certificate examinations leading to university admission (South African Universities Vice- Chancellors Association [SAUVCA], 2001). This statute determined the criteria according to which candidates were granted access to higher education up to 4 September 1992, when the JMB was dissolved. The norm-determining and norm-equivalating functions were transferred to the South African Certification Council (SAFCERT) which was, in its turn, replaced by Umalusi (the General and Further Education Quality Assurance Council), in The function of determining university admission was transferred to the Committee of University Principals (CUP), also known as The South African Vice-Chancellors Association (SAUVCA). These old statutory regulations have had a profound effect on admissions to higher education. In the Criteria and Guidelines for the Implementation of the Recognition of Prior Learning (SAQA, 2003a), the following observation is made: Many institutional practices have emanated from the deeply entrenched view that only an elite few may have access to education and training, particularly in higher education (chapter 1). 22

33 Nevertheless, when the Matriculation Board of the Committee of University Principals came into being, a key change, with the purpose of opening up access to larger numbers of non-traditional learners, was affected. This is known as the Senate Discretionary Conditional Exemption, which makes provision for the admittance of non-traditional students. It reads as follows (SAUVCA, 2001): Certificate of conditional exemption by virtue of certificate issued by the senate of a university. (1) The Committee of Principals shall issue a certificate of conditional exemption to a person who, in the opinion of the senate of a university, has demonstrated, in a selection process approved by that senate, that he or she is suitable for admission to bachelor s degree studies, which certificate shall be valid for admission to that university only. (2) The issuing of such a certificate shall be provisional and shall not entitle a university to claim a subsidy for the person before a certificate of complete exemption is issued to him, or her, but shall nevertheless entitle the university to admit him or her to bachelor s degree studies and to award credit(s) towards a degree of that university for work completed towards the degree. (3) Where the senate of a university certifies that a holder of a certificate of conditional exemption issued in terms of this paragraph has completed one full credit of instructional offerings, the Committee of Principals shall issue a certificate of exemption to him or her dated from the date of coming into operation of the certificate of conditional exemption (p.54). This statement could be viewed as a form of recognising prior learning, but is applicable only to candidates who have completed their final year of schooling (grade 12). Non-traditional students therefore refer only to learners who have a school leaving certificate, but without the minimum requirements for entry into a university. In this way, the Senate Discretionary Conditional Exemption does not cover the thousands of learners who were prevented or discouraged from completing formal schooling. 23

34 2.3.2 The 50% Residency Clause The 50% residency clause emanates from the same old statutes (Joint Statutes, 1918), and while this clause was not originally intended to be used in terms of RPL, it is now used to avoid awarding formal credits to learners who meet most (or all) of the requirements for a particular qualification as evidenced through the assessment of prior learning. This clause was developed to facilitate credit transfer between institutions of higher learning where a learner wanted access to an institution other than the institution where he or she was first enrolled (i.e. when relocating), or when study was interrupted. Essentially it means that even if a learner meets all of the requirements for the achievement of a qualification through the recognition of his/her prior learning, that learner still has to complete 50% of the qualification with the new institution before the institution is willing to award a qualification. While the Joint Statute has been repealed by the Higher Education Act (Number 101 of 1997), The joint statutes and joint regulations and rules made in terms of the Universities Act, 1955 (Act 61 of 1955), and the Technikons Act, 1993 (Act 125 of 1993), continue to exist until the date or dates contemplated in subsection (2) of the Higher Education Act. These currently pose important inhibitors to the development and implementation of RPL, particularly in higher education. 2.4 Further Education Acts and Policies As in the Higher Education Act, the Further Education and Training Act (Number 98 of 1998) states its position regarding redress and access in the preamble to the act. It is in the National Curriculum Framework for Further Education and Training (DoE, 1999), however, where more direct reference is made to recognition of prior learning: Access to the FET band can be gained through the General Education and Training Certificate (GETC) or equivalent qualification corresponding to NQF level 1, as well as by other means, e.g. via recognition of prior learning (RPL) processes (p.4). 24